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From Pizza to Performance: A Business & IT-Alignment experience

BRM Grab@Pizza

This is the final part in a trilogy of Digital Transformation stories. Written as screenplay scripts.
Part 1 focused on the transformation of the IT employee. Part 2 focused on transforming IT management and the way we, in IT, communicate with the business. This final part shines a light on the role of the business and how they also need to transform with the help of BRM.

…The camera pans slowly to the left following the Thalys high speed train to Brussels as it pulls silently up to the platform. ‘Speed..its all about speed’ thinks the CEO of Grab@Pizza. ‘Time to market. Time to Value’.

Bonjour Monsieur’ welcomes the smiling attendant. The sound of the whistle blows, echoing in the spacious new hall of Rotterdam Central station as the train pulls away…

Scene 1: Pizza company or Technology company?

The camera fades to the CEO of Grab@Pizza, a global Pizza Franchise organization. He is sitting in the first class compartment sipping his fresh orange juice and taking a bite of buttered croissant.

The CEO opens his leather document map and sees the cuttings his secretary has kindly prepared for him at 06:00 before he left. One of the cuttings shows the latest Domino’s share price, with a red pen line showing the Grab@Pizza share price.

Domino’s is consistently getting to market faster with innovation.’He sighs and reads another clipping from an article on CNBCstating, “Domino’s now employs more people in their IT department than anywhere else in the company, and over half of their sales come from digital platforms.” It was kind of his secretary to underline the last sentence, painfully reminding him of their own ‘digital capabilities’, or rather lack of! IT is supposed to enable the end-to-end value chain, not be a chain around the neck strangling innovation and preventing agility. The article continued by adding, “between 2010 and 2017, the company’s stock appreciated more than 2000 percent….in that time frame outperforming the tech giants Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.”

The CEO closes the map, and grumbles.

Pardon monsieur’? asks the attendant, refilling his coffee.

No, nothing…..just a touch of indigestion caused by a Pizza….company’.

Digital Transformation is the name of the game now for Grab@pizza’ thinks the CEO. He contemplates the workshop meeting he is going to have with his new business and IT team(s) at the itSMF in Belgium.

Voice-over: ‘The CEO of Grab@Pizza has been confronted with the harsh facts of Digital Transformation and the strategic role that IT needs to play, but is aware that ‘Digital capabilities’ are a barrier and risk. Developing these capabilities in itself represents a transformation of people, skills and culture’.

Scene 2: Setting the stage:

At the itSMF meet-up the delegates took their seats (after eating Pizza that turned up 30 minutes too late)! They were suddenly immersed into the fictive Grab@Pizza organization. Each delegate was allocated either a business or an IT role to play in the Grab@Pizza business simulation game. Two teams were challenged with helping to turn the company round by exploiting the power and potential of IT. The simulation would focus on the critical role that BRM (Business Relationship Management) plays in helping improve the relationship between business & IT and in making the shift from ‘Business & IT-Alignment’ to ‘Business & IT convergence’. The simulation would also focus on the role of the business in effectively Governing IT.

The game facilitator…(me)….playing the role of Grab@Pizza CEO sets the scene…..

Welcome…’ said the CEO. ‘…I read the Financial pages this morning in the train on my way here…..Our share prices are dropping, whilst those of our competitors are rising….We failed to meet our financial targets for the second quarter in a row!…’ He paused to let the message sink in.

We need to up our game! It’s all about Digital Transformation’. Stated the CEO, still not really sure what that means but everybody else seems to be talking about it, and it sounds impressive.‘We have to become digitally enabled…. I have asked my business team to come up with an ambitious set of strategic initiatives’added the CEO pointing to the business manager roles in the game who looked like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car.

‘…And I have asked our new IT manager to ensure these initiatives are realized on time!…as well as fixing our technical debt and poor IT capabilities’ frowned the CEO looking at the IT manager role in the game who was by now hiding under the table wondering why he agreed to turn up.

Scene 2: BRM! From Strategic Partner to Operational fire fighter in one meeting.

You only get one chance to make a first impression’.

….The CEO has walked into a meeting being held by the Sales, Finance and Admin Directors. The camera fades in to a heated discussion already taking place.

CEO: ‘….delays and time to market impacting share price and customer loyalty, damaged reputation because of outages in production being reported in the press..

The BRM enters the room.

CEO: ‘Who are you?…’ barks the CEO unfairly. He is frustrated and irritated by the impact of the current digital capabilities that he is hearing about.

BRM: ‘I am the Business Relationship manager, I have come to talk to you about supporting your strategic goals and how we in IT can help you achieve them’…she declares smiling, and full of
well-intentioned ambition.

CEO: ‘…From IT!?… Right. Go and find out where all these damaging outages are coming from and fix that’!

BRM: ‘…er…that is a Service Delivery issue. I am here to support you by shaping demand for your future strategic needs

CEO: ‘Really?! You said ‘support my strategic goals and needs’? We are in danger of failing to achieve these because IT is not supporting us, go and solve these and demonstrate some credibility’!!

Voice over: ‘The IT organization, like many, wants to become a strategic partner to the business but is being forced into an Operational ‘Order taker’ role because of poor Service Management capabilities. Nobody has clarified the role or added value of the BRM for the business, so it is automatically seen as an extension to Service Management’.

Scene 3: Loudest in, first out!

The camera shows the IT support manager waiting at the coffee machine. The CEO on his way to a share-holder meeting sees the support manager and calls him over…

CEO: ‘I keep getting angry phone calls from users about some disc outages. I don’t want more any more angry calls from the users. Fix this ‘disc thing’ and make sure it doesn’t happen again…and by the way are we meeting our Service levels? I don’t want to damage revenue and market image any more because of outages’?

‘..Er…I’ll look into that’ says the IT manager.

The IT manager tasks the Problem manager with identifying known errors and submitting a change.

The IT manager chases the Service Manager about the SLA’s.

..No’! declares the Service Manager. ‘We didn’t meet the SLA. I told people what the SLA was but now they said they didn’t know’!

Voice over: ‘IT support has no idea of the priority or impact of the incidents, nor insight into the mapping of changes to business goals. As a result of this, and being unable to predict the sudden peak of calls because of new business projects – that they knew nothing about – $6 million is lost due to downtime, and an important business goal was not realized – This is what we refer to as  ‘Value leakage’.

The CEO shouting the loudest causes IT to pick up an insignificant set of outages and add a change to the Calendar’.


Scene 4:  BRM Ping-Pong

The camera shows a change management meeting taking place. The BRM is in discussion with the change manager. The problem manager is also in the meeting…

BRM: ’We need to get these changes in to support the Sales Director’s Web ordering project, he wants it  done this month’!

Change manager: ‘…sorry your change isn’t getting on the calendar, we have some high priority outages that need solving first’. (The CEO shouting about the user complaints).

The BRM goes back to the Sales Director, thinking ‘how am I going to break the news’.

BRM: ‘Sorry your change won’t happen this month, we have some urgent IT changes to resolve critical outages that are damaging business goals’. (Assumptions, Assumptions!)

Sales Director: ‘Go back to IT and tell them this is urgent as well and it impacts business goals’!

IT, not really knowing what the BRM does, and not really understanding the business value to be achieved with the Web ordering project prioritizes based on ‘loudest first’.

Voice over: We now enter what It calls a ‘Loop’ with the BRM being ping-ponged back and forth without any real authority to get things done. Neither the business nor IT perceive any added value from the BRM role.

Scene 5:  er or ER. IT Governance! What’s that all about?

The camera shows the CEO in a meeting with his business team.

CEO to business: ‘What is the status of the Web ordering?…we will be deploying it right?…I need to tell Wall street we will hit our quarterly targets?

Sales Director: ‘Yes….well, they told us it would be deployed’.

CEO: ‘How far are they? When will it be ready’?

Sales Director: ‘ ..they told us they would do it’.

CEO: ‘What reporting have you agreed about progress, do we have enough information to be able to ‘Direct’ and ‘Monitor’? The CEO was pleased he threw these words in, he remembered seeing these in an endless COBIT audit report about GEIT, GRC and ‘controls’ and ‘compliance’ and ticks in the boxes.

Sales Director: ‘….er’!

CEO: ‘What about the Value Leakage? Lost revenue? Damaged reputation from the outages? What have you agreed for reducing these risks?’

Sales Director: ‘……’?

CEO: ‘Yes we will need ER if we don’t have effective Governance over IT! ‘Emergency Room’ support to revive us! All I see is you throwing your IT related projects over the wall and HOPING we achieve our Value optimization goals’….and when we don’t then you blame IT!…You did share our Value goals with IT’?

Sales Director: ‘….er….more coffee CEO’?

BRM: ‘Yes and when we have to prioritize our work based upon which ‘C’ level manager shouts the loudest we put our Value creation at risk’. Lack of effective governance to prioritize scarce resources results in ‘Value leakage’.

CEO: ‘Who do you mean?….’

Voice over: The CEO and management team are now confronted with the need for effective IT Governance. Priority and Decision making based around what BRM describes as ‘Value Creation’ and preventing ‘Value Leakage’.  What COBIT defines as balancing resource optimization for ‘Benefits Realization’ and ‘Risk Optimization’. The BRM helps ensure this Business intelligence is translated into end-to-end ITSM capabilities.

 BRM: ‘By the way, the IT manager and my team have been looking at emerging technologies and we have found a way of exploiting these to achieve one of your strategic business goals’?

CEO ‘…er…Tell me more’.

Key takeaways:

At the start of the session I asked what people knew about BRM, or if they had a BRM role. One answer was ‘BRM? That’s the person that goes and plays golf with the business all the time and doesn’t actually do anything’?

At the end of the condensed business simulation workshop we asked ‘What have we actually discovered about BRM?. What can we take-away to apply’?

The key takeaway exercise was a free format plenary exploration. After the session I mapped these back onto the BRM competence model(Visit the BRM Institute site via the link to view the competence model).

Strategic Partnering  

  • You must have trust and credibility through effective ITSM capabilities before you can hope to be seen as a strategic partner. This also requires the business to mature in the way it governs IT and helps ensure effective priority and decision making mechanisms. This also requires the business to quantify their value requirements.
  • BRM can be forced into an operational role. BRM and Service Manager should team up. The Service Manager picks up the Value leakage and operational issues that are a barrier to partnership, the BRM can then focus on strategy and shaping business needs.

Business IQ

  • The importance of getting the right information. From an IT perspective we need to understand more about the business perceptions of Value. In terms of ‘Value creation’ and ‘Value leakage’. From a business perspective information to enable them to ‘Evaluate, Direct & Monitor’ and effectively Govern IT investments to optimize Value.
  • The BRM can help ensure the understanding of business value, impact and priorities is shared with ITSM. The Service manager can ensure this is translated into ITSM capabilities.
  • A better understanding of VOCR (value, Outcomes, Costs, Risks) and use this to shape prioritization and decision making. Whenever challenged with 2 changes, 2 projects, 2 incidents – use VOCR to help prioritize.
  • VOCR needs to be understood at ALL levels (Strategic(Portfolio), Tactical(changes) and Operational(Incidents, Problems, Requests).

Portfolio Management

  • The importance of having a balanced Portfolio. We in IT must understand what is in the pipeline and how the portfolio relates to Value and Outcomes. The portfolio must also be balanced with IT initiatives such as removing technical debt, and upgrading infrastructure to become more agile.
  • Effective IT governance mechanisms must be in place to prioritize scare resources for what BRM calls Value Optimization.

Provider domain

  • Service management processes need to be aligned end-to-end so that the portfolio decisions can flow through the service value chain – all the way down to the Service desk for new training needs and prioritization of business issues and requests.
  • Clear role definitions between BRM and the ITSM roles such as SLM, Service manager or Service delivery manager. BRM can focus on shaping new demands and Service portfolio management, Service manager can focus on operationalization and delivery.
  • The need to educate all in IT to create a mindset shift – Understand how your activities contribute to business value.

Business Transition Management

  • The need to have a roadmap to shift from ‘Adhoc – firefighter’ to ‘trusted advisor’ before we can convince our business colleagues we are a ‘Strategic Parter’ (These levels are based upon the BRM Maturity Model).
  • The roadmap must also help ensure the business applies adequate IT Governance mechanisms to ensure that Value is both understood AND realized.

Powerful communications

  • Improved communication. Talking in Business terms and business value not IT terminology
  • Ensure information needs are passed through the complete end-to-end delivery teams, especially value requirements, and priority & decision making authorities and criteria.
  • The importance of communicating the business strategy and goals.

Quote from Bart Van Brabant, chairman of the ITSMF Belgium Chapter:

“We thought this experience would bring an additional added value to our members. Most of them are trained and experienced in IT Service Management or hold various high ranking positions in IT departments or Companies. We thought it would be great to confront them with their business – or any business and see what drives them and what it means for their core business leaders what IT could ask from them. Terms like value and outcome are not so often used by IT leaders or specialists.

As an observer I can say It was a remarkable experience for our members and our ITSMF Belgium team – one that triggered emotions and reactions Paul so profoundly describes within this blog.”

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